Choosing Jigsaw Puzzles
Given that a good jigsaw is likely to absorb you, your family and friends for many hours it is worthwhile spending time at the onset to find the right one. We will look at three things that you might like to give some thought to:
- Degree of Difficulty
Most people have a budget to work to and thankfully jigsaws can be found to fit everyone's budget. The list below gives you an idea of what you are likely to get for your money:
- £1 to £2: Second hand cardboard jigsaws at car boot sales
- £3 to £15: Good quality, new cardboard jigsaws
- £15 to £60: Second-hand wooden puzzles from the 1920's onwards
- £20 upwards: 250 piece laser cut wooden jigsaws
- £70 upwards: 800 piece laser cut wooden jigsaws
- £100 upwards: 1,000 piece traditionally cut wooden jigsaws
- £1,000 upwards: 1,000 piece highly personalised wooden jigsaw.
If you are buying a puzzle for yourself then bear in mind that it might bring more pleasure than you first think. For instance you may pass it on to your children and grandchildren, you might share and swap it with your friends or it could have a rarity value that makes it a good investment.
Old puzzles, like the one above from Chad Valley, often contain elaborately cut pieces that are distinctly different to modern puzzles and they have the added interest of a history. Although their value is increasing rapidly they are still affordable for most enthusiasts.
Things have come a long way since the days when a jigsaw had to be of a boat a train or a tiger! Nowadays you can find puzzles that embody every conceivable element of the past, present and future. Everything that you can take a photograph of (and many things that you can't) can be found on a jigsaw somewhere or other.
Jigsaws featuring favourite TV, pop and film characters are popular as are specialist puzzles to cater for cult followings like sports cars and cats. Rapidly growing in popularity are puzzles made from your own photographs of individuals, pets and family groups. Then there are baked beans and brussel sprouts to baffle the most dedicated sadists. Despite all of this the old favourites still endure....dads still like their steam train puzzles and mums like the country cottages.
The Degree of Difficulty
It is within the mental and physical capacity of most adults to construct a jigsaw of astounding complexity but the same cannot be said for children and we don't want to put them off by giving them something too difficult! Suggestions for different age groups are as follows:
- 18 months to 2 years old: Less than 15 pieces
- 2 to 3 years old: 15 to 30 pieces
- 4 to 5 years old: 30 to 80 pieces
- 6 to 12 years old: 80 to 1,000 pieces
Maps were the subject of the very earliest puzzles and they are still a wonderful learning tool for youngsters. JR Puzzles produce an excellent range of map puzzles like the one on the right - all at reasonable prices. Coloured maps are regarded as one of the easiest types of puzzle to construct.
Choosing jigsaws for children needs to be based upon their developing abilities but choosing for adults needs to be based on the jigsaw players enthusiasm. The aim should be to find a puzzle that is challenging enough to be considered 'difficult' but not so challenging that it is considered 'impossible'.
So what determines the degree of difficulty? A surprisingly large number of things...
Firstly there is the total number of pieces. You might logically think that a 1,000-piece puzzle is twice as difficult as a 500-piece puzzle but you would be wrong. The mathematicians tell us (and they can prove it!) that all other things being equal then the DOUBLING of the number of pieces QUADRUPLES the level of difficulty. Thus a 1,000 piece puzzle is four times as difficult as a 500 piece one and a 4,000 piece puzzle is 64 times as difficult as a 500 piecer. That explains why several 4,000 piece puzzles are sold but only a tiny proportion are ever completed.
Next comes the colouring of the jigsaw. If a 1,000-piece picture can easily be broken up into four equal sized colour categories (say blue sky, green fields, red uniformed people and grey aeroplanes) then you effectively have 4 x 250 piece jigsaws rolled into one. Using the proven mathematical theory this would be much easier than a puzzle consisting totally of blue sky. It is also worth noting that a painting is usually more difficult to put together than a photograph because the photograph will have much clearer demarcation zones between colours and it will be more 'Predictable'.
And then comes the individual size of the pieces. Large pieces are easier to put together because your brain can glean more clues about where they fit in.
Lastly there is the shape of the pieces. As a general rule, the easiest jigsaws are the ones that have matching corners both ways (Grid cut), medium difficulty are the ones that have matching corners one way (Strip cut) whilst the most difficult (and the most enthralling) have matching corners neither way.